(WINDSOR, ON) – Approximately 30 tugboats of all sizes raced east from Mill Street, in Olde Sandwich, under the Ambassador Bridge, and then full throttle to Dieppe Park during the 40th running of the International Tugboat race, on Saturday. It is one of the most fascinating events of the summer season; at least to Brian Williams.
A long-time racer and now an organizer of the event, in 2003 Williams took the championship mantle from his father, a tugboat racer since the 1970s.
Racing tugs on the Detroit River actually started in the 1950s as a loosely organized event. It then lapsed until 1976 when the International Freedom Festival re-started the tradition, running it until the festival went bankrupt.
Williams is credited with helping in the race’s latest reincarnation in an effort that involved working with sponsors and tugboat captains.
“There’s no kid out there, and people in general, who doesn’t think a tug is cool,” Williams said. “Twenty or so tugs running at full speed is something you don’t see very often.”
A number of the tugs are actually retired. Two second place finishers are now more pleasure boat than tugboat. The Pioneer from Wyandotte, MI, ranked in the third class based on horsepower, was also one of the most decorated. It picked up second place standing in the Judge’s Pick category.
Built in Port Huron in 1936, the vessel has two twin 500 horsepower diesel engines noted co-captain Nick Presson.
The Sheila Kaye, also of Wyandotte, and owned by Williams, placed second in Class 2 and is also now a pleasure boat, reported crew member Rudy Adam. The boat is named after William’s mother who was taken by cancer. It is often used in fundraisers to fight the deadly disease.